Sagar Tanna (Leukemia): Optimism Can Help You Smile Through Everything

Early Symptoms and Diagnosis

In 2002, I started developing a fever which went on for 5-6 days. I started noticing that my face was turning a little pale. I was also weak.

I consulted a family physician, who recommended some antibiotics, stating that I might have viral fever. But then my spleen started to expand because of the swelling. I was constantly feeling Nauseous and I was drastically losing weight.

So, I got a CT scan done in which it occurred to be Lymphoma and my kidney seemed to have many nodules. I showed it to the Urologist but with the symptoms that I had, he could not find anything wrong in the report. I was suggested to show it to a hematologist, who told me to undergo a bone marrow test, for which I had to admit myself in Lilavati Hospital and undergo a surgery for bone marrow test. Going through my test results, it was found that I had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia and I was informed by the doctor that I have only a 20% chance of surviving.

Leukemia Treatment

I went through 6 cycles of chemo. My first cycle started on August 15, 2002 and the last cycle ended on 7th January, 2003. During the 6th chemo, my condition was so critical that I was in the ICU. I was completely isolated in a room for six months and couldn’t even see sunlight for 2-3 weeks.That phase was very depressing for me and it was affecting my mental health badly. Looking at my situation, my family and doctor had completely lost any hope for my survival. But, it was a miracle that I survived through all this. I kept an optimistic mindset and I wanted to fight it like a hero. Even my doctors really helped by providing motivation and he was more like a friend than a doctor. He became my best friend and I always looked forward to talking to him. I enjoyed the freedom and did all I ever wanted to do.

Post-Surgery

After my last Chemo, I took permission from my doctor and started going outside the room. Going back to nature made me feel alive. My friends secretly took me for a drive. All these things helped me come out of the depression and helped me recover even more quickly. My friends used to encourage me. They used to talk positively and make fun. They made sure to treat me normally by not talking much about my illness.

Caregiver Support

My father was always there with me throughout the journey. He took leave from the office and for the whole 6 months he was with me. I felt that he struggled more than me. My uncle was also there to get me medicines and was constantly doing everything for me without any complaints. And especially, my doctor who did not only fulfill his duty but also inspired me so much through all this phase. He is a great human being and more of a friend than doctor. My friends used to schedule all fun activities for me and came to meet me regularly and took really good care of me. I feel gratitude for my caregivers because they struggled even more. I had that privilege of my loved ones around me throughout my journey.

Life after Cancer

Earlier when I found out about the disease, I was cursing it and felt like I didn’t deserve it. But cancer taught me to be stress free and develop an optimistic mindset. I eliminated my unhealthy lifestyle. Basically cancer made me more mature. I also realized that anxiety won’t lead you anywhere and all you require is healing and recovering from the inside. There is no need to hide any symptoms from your loved ones which I realized later. Staying positive all the time and having humor in life are the two important things in life.

Parting message

For Patients – “You know the cancer, but cancer doesn’t know what you are, so you always have a chance to win over cancer”. “Miracles don’t happen with cancer and medicines, but miracles happen with you, so you can choose to be that miracle yourself”. The best way to fight cancer is to always have a positive smile.

During the sixth cycle of my chemo, when I was in ICU, I was smiling mostly. Everybody else was crying and I was the only one smiling there, because I was strong and that helped me a lot. So, rather than thinking about what you have to do all the time you should think about what you don’t have to do, which will make that phase easier and simple.

And for a caregiver I would say that, they should be mentally tough and always create a positive atmosphere around the patient. I feel gratitude for my caregivers because they suffered even more than me.

During the Chemo I always felt like a superhero because I had everyone, the doctor, family,  and friends with me. I did all the things to fight cancer. People spend all their lives defining who they are and what’s the purpose of their life. So, it was a very good time for me to utilize the time and find out the answers. “Almost all people fight for a better life whereas the cancer patients are fighting for ‘a’ life”. 

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